2008 Global BusinessObjects Network User Conference – Day 1

Day one of GBN 2008

Today was the first day of the GBN Business Objects conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas. It started with a keynote from John Schwartz, CEO of Business Objects, now a division of SAP. John used sailing metaphors to encourage organizations to continue making strides with business intelligence to help weather economic storms. There were no new product introductions, as the flagship BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 was quietly released earlier in the month. However, there were a few product demonstrations from the Business Objects Labs, such as the ability to post back data to a data source. Conspicuously absent was any discussion of the product roadmap. Also conspicuously absent was Bernard Liautaud, founder of Business Objects. No offense to John, but Bernard’s absence was yet another reminder of the consequences of adding “a division of SAP” to the Business Objects corporate logo.

Next, Ryan Goodman gave a well-attended session entitled “Next Generation of Dashboards Using Xcelsius 2008”. There wasn’t much new information for existing Xcelsius 2008 customers, but he did take the time to show off the new custom Xcelsius components developed by his company, Centigon Solutions.

One of the best sessions I attended was by Tom Nather of the Cleveland Clinic, entitled “Implement Sign On with Dashboards and Xcelsius 2008”. He was joined on stage by Tim Ziemba, a Business Objects support engineer, and discussed SSO using both Trusted Authentication and Vintela. These gentlemen did a great job going narrow and deep on an important topic that has historically not been well documented by Business Objects. Note to Business Objects: get more knowledgeable support engineers like Tim in front of customers at these events.

The least useful presentation of the day goes to Business Objects, with their “Where is Business Objects Headed with Dashboards and Scorecards”. After being promised with the latest information, it appears that the answer is “We don’t know, check back in 2010”. On the Dashboards and Visualization side, the answer is clear: Xcelsius, Xcelsius, Xcelsius!!! Oh, and Dashboard Builder, which as of earlier this year is included as “standard” on all Business Objects Enterprise and Business Objects Edge Series editions. The real mystery is regarding performance management. The end of life (EOL) has been declared for analytics in Dashboard Builder as well as the existing Performance Manager product. These features/products are being phased out in favor of the ironically named SAP Strategy Management, obtained by SAP’s February 2007 acquisition of Pilot Software. Ironic, as nobody at Business Objects seems to be clearly managing the strategy for performance management. The lights in the auditorium went out several times during the presentation, perhaps a metaphor for the current product roadmap, which consisted of black text on dark brown boxes – very illuminating indeed.

Day one of the conference concluded with “Virtually Yours, a great presentation on virtualization and Business Objects. And I’m not just saying this because the presentation was given by Alan Mayer, my manager at Integra Solutions. Alan was joined on stage by James Landis of Southwest Airlines. The breakout provided solid information about both the benefits and challenges of using products such as VMware. It was a timely topic that provided balance to the seemingly endless Xcelsius 2008 breakouts that saturate this year’s conference schedule.

2008 GBN Business Objects User Conference – Preview

Monday is the beginning of the Global Business Objects Network’s (GBN) annual Business Objects User Conference in Dallas, Texas. This will be the first Business Objects user conference since merger with SAP, the first post-Insight user conference, and (at least for me) the first user conference held during a downturn in the overall US economy.

I’m looking forward to networking with my peers, consuming fajitas and guacamole, and presenting my breakout, CMC Essentials. My presentation focuses on Business Objects security administration, comparing XI R2 against XI 3.0 and XI 3.1. I’ll begin with a brief history of Business Objects administration, then move onto the security features that XI R2 and XI 3.x share. Most of my time will be spent discussing and demonstrating the the new security features of XI 3.x like custom access levels, scope of rights, the Permissions Explorer and Security Query.

On a personal note, it’s my first breakout as a member of Integra Solutions, a business unit of Quorum Business Solutions. As Darth Vader said, “The circle is now complete.” When I attended my first Business Objects conference in 2005, I had never heard of Integra Solutions but attended several breakout sessions by Alan Mayer, Dave Rathbun and others. Now, these outstanding professionals are my friends and co-workers. Please join Integra Solutions at the following breakout sessions:

Virtually Yours, by Alan Mayer and James Landis
Monday, October 20, 2008
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Extreme Reporting, by Alan Mayer
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
9:15 AM – 10:15 AM

Universe Designer Essentials and Beyond, by Dave Rathbun
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM

CMC Essentials, by Dallas Marks
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
Metropolitan Ballroom

Auditing for Anyone, by Meredith McLarty
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
9:15 AM – 10:15 AM
Metropolitan Ballroom

I’ll be blogging live from the conference. See you in Dallas!

Global BusinessObjects Network launched

The Global BusinessObjects Network officially launched this week, a rebranding of the Business Objects Community Alliance. The GBN is fully independent and an offshoot of the America’s SAP Users Group (ASUG). GBN is organizating this October’s Business Objects User Conference on October 20-22, 2008 in Dallas, Texas at the Hilton Anatole. GBN will also be the umbrella organization for local user groups, which will no longer have direct oversight from SAP BusinessObjects.

Business Intelligence Timeline

What’s on your Business Intelligence timeline?

Updated August 1, 2012

I recently stumbled across this nifty Business Intelligence timeline on the Business Objects web site. It dates back to 3500 BC and the Sumerians. Somebody put a lot of thought into the timeline, even including extensive footnotes. The timeline marks some interesting developments in human history, not to mention Business Objects history – developments like Business Objects 4.0, which shipped in 1996. Business Objects 4.0 was the first version of Business Objects to incorporate the Supervisor administrator application.

I have my own Business Intelligence timeline, although it is much shorter – beginning in February 2003 when I started using Business Objects 5i. Supervisor was replaced in November 2004 by the Business Objects XI Release 1 Central Management Console, or CMC. Like many of you, I learned Supervisor only to have to relearn the CMC. The CMC was simply a rebranded Crystal Management Console from Crystal Enterprise 10. And although Business Objects XI was the 3rd iteration of the CMC, it lacked certain capabilities and refinement.

Supervisor had its own issues, but we were comfortable. Many of us were bitter when XI shipped, clinging to our guns and Supervisor. And just when many administrators are finally getting comfortable with the XI R2 CMC, we must change once again to adopt Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0.

Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0 shipped in March 2008 with a completely redesigned CMC. There were many reasons to undertake a redesign. On the architecture side, previous versions of the CMC relied on Crystal Web Requests (CWR), which have been depreciated. The Web Component Adapter (WCA) that supported CWR’s is no longer present in the XI 3.0 architecture. On the user side, the CMC worked well with single objects (users, folders, etc.), but didn’t make administrators very efficient working with multiple objects. Advanced rights were a pain to setup and manage. Some security situations were tricky to resolve without breaking inheritance rules. And the tools for diagnosing security issues still required a lot of Sherlock Holmes-style detective work by an administrator.

Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0 contains many architectural and user-centric improvements. As I continue to use the product, I see that many of the changes are actually in response to feature enhancements requested by users. So we are partially to blame. Fortunately, many of the underlying security rules in XI R2 are still valid – they just come in a bright shiny new package.

I’ll be discussing the new CMC this October at the GBN Business Objects User Conference 2008 in Dallas, Texas (visit my Presentations page).

What’s on your Business Intelligence timeline?


UPDATE (August 1, 2012): GBN is now part of ASUG, the America’s SAP User Group. Thanks to Sandor de Heij for finding the original timeline in the Web Archive’s Wayback Machine.  Upon closer inspection, it looks like Business Objects cited most of their timeline from A Brief History of Decision Support Systems by D. J. Power.

Dallas Goes to Dallas

I’m presenting at the 2008 BusinessObjects User Conference.

I received the following e-mail today. It began,

Dear Dallas:
Congratulations! We are delighted to invite you to present at the 2008 Business Objects Users Conference. Having received more than 275 submissions of quality content, our selection committee feels confident that sessions such as yours will make this our strongest conference program to date.


This year’s conference, at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas, will be my fourth in attendance and the third in a row for presenting. My topic this year will focus on the Central Management Console and security.

At my very first Business Objects conference (Insight 2005 at the Gaylord Palms resort in Orlando, Florida), I noticed all of the presentations from Integra Solutions. I said to myself, “that’s what I want to be when I grow up” and worked toward becoming a breakout speaker. It is going to be an awesome, yet humbling, experience to present this year wearing an Integra Solutions shirt.

This year’s conference will be the first conference without Business Objects steering the helm. But regardless of the changes, I know there are many volunteers working passionately to make the 2008 Business Objects User Conference a success.

I hope to see you there!

Business Objects Insight Americas 2006

OK, it’s been nearly two years since the conference in November 2006.  But better late than never to post my photos.  Besides, it’s a great time to reminisce, since this year’s user conference is coming up fast.  After attending my first Insight user conference the prior year at the Gaylord Palms resort in Orlando, Florida, I was selected as a breakout speaker for Insight 2006 in San Francisco, California at the Moscone Center. My topic was Getting Personal with Publications and Profiles. The publications feature has been greatly enhanced in Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0, but if selected this year, I’ll be speaking on other topics.

Can’t see the above slide show? Try this link.

I managed to stay a few extra days in the bay area, so enjoy my pictures of Muir Beach, Muir Woods, Half Moon Bay, the Business Objects headquarters in San Jose, and of course, the actual conference itself.

Business Objects User Conference – Call for Speakers

Call for papers for the 2008 BusinessObjects User Conference

The call for papers has been given for the upcoming 2008 Business Objects user conference. You can learn more and submit a topic on the Business Objects Community Alliance website. But act fast – the deadline is Monday, August 11, 2008!

Business Objects Insight 2008, RIP?

The news is trickling out slowly, but since 2008 is the year of “change”, change is coming to the Business Objects user community. There will be a conference this year; however, it is now being organized by an off shoot of ASUG (Americas SAP User Group) called the Business Objects Community Alliance. The event will be held October 20-22, 2008 in Dallas, Texas at the Hilton Anatole.

Business Objects Insight 2007 – Part I

Or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love SAP”.

I recently attended Business Objects Insight 2007 in sunny Orlando, Florida. This was my second year as a breakout speaker, with a presentation entitled Secure Universes Using Restriction Sets. For those expecting big news regarding XI 3.0 (code name Titan) or the next release of Dashboard Manager/Performance Manager (code name Allegro), there weren’t any large announcements during the general sessions; however, there were brief peeks throughout the conference (more about that later).

Of course, the first thing to be dealt with was the small matter of the upcoming acquisition by SAP. Both Bernard Liautaud and John Schwarz indicated that Business Objects would remain an independent organization with both staying on board to lead it. We’ll have to wait till the acquisition closes to learn more, but ideally an independent Business Objects can remain vendor neutral for the benefit of all customers but still create compelling solutions for SAP customers.The “major” product announcement from the conference was Crystal Reports 2008, which is currently in beta and will ship before the end of 2007. I didn’t hear a formal explanation, but I’m assuming that the “2008” designation (instead of XI 3.0) is intended to more clearly communicate to Microsoft Visual Studio developers which version of CR goes with VS. One of the major feature enhancements is the ability to integrate Xcelsius content into a Crystal Report. For those of us who are “traditional” Business Objects users, I’m assuming that similar integration will occur with other reporting tools in XI 3.0.

I was pleased to see that there were two presentations regarding publications, the topic of my Insight 2006 presentation, Getting Personal with Publications and Profiles. Publications are the mechanism Business Objects uses to supporting single pass report bursting. The first presentation was Publications Unleashed, presented by Don Kawahigashi from Integra Solutions. Don had some great examples from an actual customer installation on how to extend the publication capabilities in the current release, XI Release 2. The other presentation was entitled Publications- The Power of Personalization by David Brockington and Derek Wang from Business Objects. Their presentation was my first sneak-peek at the revised Central Management Console (CMC) in XI 3.0. The expected new feature was the addition of Web Intelligence as a supported document type (XI Release 2 publications require Desktop Intelligence). The surprise new features were the addition of Crystal Reports as a supported document type and Dynamic Recipients. With Dynamic Recipients, you can manage subscribers that do not have to be a Business Objects user. I’m anxiously awaiting the release of XI 3.0, which is slated for the intentionally vague “first half of 2008”.

From my perspective, Xcelsius was the most covered technology in the breakouts. The coolest breakout was Jeff Pelletier from AT&T Mobility (formerly Cingular) describing how it was used to launch the Apple iPhone. I’m curious to see if and how Allegro will continue to integrate Xcelsius technology into the Dashboard Manager/Performance Manager products.

Curious was the announcement of a deeper partnership with IBM, which came the day after the conference. The delayed announcement probably explains IBM motivation for being a global sponsor of Insight 2007. The press release is sketchy on details, but it appears that a “limited” version of Business Objects will be distributed with IBM DB2.

No formal word on the location of next year’s conference, but I hope it will be sunny and warm.